Certain dietary choices can make anxiety worse.
Certain foods and drinks can have an effect on your anxiety—for better, or for worse. Although dietary choices alone cannot make or break anxiety, eliminating certain foods and adding others might have a positive effect.
Alcohol and caffeine should either be cut down on or, preferably, eliminated altogether. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, which is bad news for anyone prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing dehydration; impairs the central nervous system, limiting one’s ability to regulate emotion; and throws your blood sugar completely out of whack.
MSG, a food additive found in lots of packaged foods, can increase anxiety symptoms in some people. White bread, white pasta, and other foods full of refined carbs can cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar, resulting in anxiety-inducing symptoms like rapid heartrate, confusion, irritability, sweating, and shaking. High-fructose corn syrup can mess with your blood sugar levels, as well.
Hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, tend to exacerbate symptoms in patients with anxiety. Fried or highly processed foods full of fat and sugar might be delicious, but they’re also full of trans fats; you might crave doughnuts and fast food when you’re feeling stressed, but they can actually make your anxiety worse in the long run.
So, what should you be eating and drinking instead? For starters, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, as dehydration can lead to mood swings, dizziness, and fatigue. Even mild dehydration can negatively impact one’s mood and ability to concentrate. You should also be careful to avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes by eating healthy, nutritious meals at regular intervals throughout the day.
Whole-grain foods can boost serotonin production in the brain, which in turn can help reduce anxiety. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring source of serotonin that comes from our diet. Protein-rich foods tend to be especially high in tryptophan. Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, eggs, red meat, poultry, fish, oats, buckwheat, sesame, and chickpeas are all high in tryptophan—and chocolate, is, too!